July 14, 2005
The Australian Government Gene
Technology Regulator, Dr Sue Meek, today issued an assurance
that canola found in Victoria to contain genetic material that
could only have been introduced using gene technology is as safe
as conventional canola for both people and the environment.
Dr Meek said testing of canola seeds
conducted by ABB Grain
Ltd, using new and highly sensitive analytical
techniques, has detected extremely low levels of the genetic
material in samples of supposedly conventional canola.
“The “DNA fingerprint” of the genetic
material tells us that canola containing this particular
modification (known as Topas 19/2, which confers tolerance to
the herbicide glufosinate ammonium) was trialled in Australia
under the former voluntary system, prior to the introduction of
the national regulatory system for gene technology in 2001,” she
This system was overseen by the Genetic
Manipulation Advisory Committee, and their guidelines contained
similar containment provisions to limit the spread of GMOs and
their introduced genetic material as those imposed in
intentional release licenses issued by the Regulator.
“However, Topas 19/2 has subsequently been
comprehensively assessed by both Food Standards Australia New
Zealand (FSANZ) and the Gene Technology Regulator and approved
for human consumption and commercial release.”
Dr Meek said Topas 19/2 was among a number of
lines that Bayer Crop Science Pty Ltd (Bayer) included for
evaluation in its application for a commercial release licence
for InVigor® canola that was issued by the Regulator in 2003.
“Bayer has advised that this line also has
approvals in a number of other countries, including Europe,
China, the USA, Canada and Japan. However, the company has
stated that it has chosen not to develop it further in
Australia,” she said.
“While there are number of ways in which the
genetic material could have been inadvertently incorporated into
conventional canola plants, trials conducted under Commonwealth
or State legislation do not seem to be a likely source.”
None of the limited and controlled releases
that have been, or are being, conducted with genetically
modified canola under licenses issued by the Gene Technology
Regulator have introduced genetic material which matches that
found in the independent tests.
The industry test results also show the
genetic material found in what were thought to be conventional
crop samples is different from that in the InVigor® lines
authorised for use in the trials Bayer is currently conducting
in accordance with the Victorian Government’s moratorium
The small scale of the trial of Topas 19/2
that was conducted in Victoria prior to the establishment of the
national regulatory scheme for gene technology makes it unlikely
that the genetic material came from there.
“My Office is providing technical assistance
to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries to help
attempt to determine how and when this situation may have
arisen,” Dr Meek said.
“The most important message is that this
genetic modification has been thoroughly assessed and approved
for unrestricted release as it does not pose risks to human
health and safety or the Australian environment.”
Australia: traces of approved GM material
confirmed in Bayer CropScience canola grain